Hip-hops greatest band might be spending most of its energies rehearsing and performing on Fallon. But the Roots new album proves theyre still an awesome force in the studio. Here Quest, in his own words, gives us the inside dope on his best recordings.
Common featuring Erykah Badu & Bilal
The Light from Dave Chappelles Block Party Demonstrates the power of musicians [the Roots] who have played together for a long time, to the point where the song can morph into something else without us even looking at each other.
Everyone on stage had been holding jam sessions together for ten-plus yearsBilal would sneak into the club when he was still a sophomore in high schoolso this song goes through various phases. It best demonstrates the jam-session vibes that started in my living room back in 97 and ended on a Brooklyn stage in 2004.
Long Time from Game Theory Because of the phase of hip-hop I came in on, the anything James Brown era left the station before I was able to get my Clyde and Jabo on. Im fairly modest about my drumming in all areas except one: I am the heir to the Clyde/Jabo throne. And although somewhat by default, dare I quip that if I wanna be known for any type of legacy, I wanna be known as the funkiest thing walking today. My Clydeness (left-hand grace notes) and my Jaboness (grace notes with the kick drum) really show in concert, but the sonic quality of my recordings sometimes prevents that loose funk from coming through. That said, Ill say that Long Time is the first time I decided to have a What would Clyde do? moment on record.
No Alibi from Illadelph Halflife This represents my cold phase. After the critically lauded but commercially cold reception of Do You Want More?!!!??!, fingers started pointing in my directionsounds too live too soft too alternativewhich means no cred in the hip-hop world we had to survive in. You have to understand, we were still hip-hoppers at heart, and only to a jazz musician does critical reception mean more than sales. (We got used to it in time, but back then? Sheeesh.) Because the hip-hop elite kept pulling us over and asking for our ID every few miles on the rap interstate, we decided to make that wait-till-they-get-a-load-of-me, chip-on-the-shoulder album.
I was less worried about non-hip-hop musicians frowning on the cold sound than I was about the hip-hop elite not letting us play in any reindeer games. We were getting pressure on both sides: How is Branford [Marsalis] gonna dig Clones? But is the RZA gonna dig One Shine? Real musicians cried Foul! and Sellout! and the hip-hop elite said, Welcome home.
This phase was more about engineering and figuring how to get a programmed sound without using machines than it was about drumming. The answer: gating, decaying, and perfect rhythm are your best friends. Cats can gospel roll all they wantI wanna see someone duplicate this exact break with no programming.
A.D. 2000 from Mamas Gun The entire Mamas Gun project was my strangest task as a drummer/producer. My production partner, James Poyser, left the DAngelo Voodoo tour early to return home to start preproduction on Erykahs follow-up to her Grammy-winning debut album, Baduism. Because I committed 2000 to staying with DAngelomuch to the chagrin of the rest of the Roots, who surprisingly got a breath of life with our Grammy winI had to pretty much contribute to her album when I could: 1 a.m.7 a.m., and yes, even on sick days.
This is another example of a rare chance for me to pay homage to an unlikely drummer hero of mine: Stevie Wonder. For starters, I grew up listening to Stevie, and you always emulate what you grow up with. And Stevie came up in a time when Motown took Phil Spectors Wall Of Sound madness to the next level. (On the master reels from the 60s you can hear three or four percussionists/drummers playing various parts at the same time.) Thus you hear Stevies violent hi-hat work on Love Having You Around on Music Of My Mind.
When Erykah demoed A.D. 2000 for us, I thought, Since this feels like Syreeta, lemme pull a What would Stevie Wonder do? on the drums. I should also add that I was extremely sickbarf bag, juice, and Kleenex everywhere. My girlfriend at the time was extremely upset that I did Erykahs session when I should have been getting ready for lobby call (8 a.m.) for the next town.
It should also be noted that I fell asleep while drumming. Seriouslyyou can even hear the point when I woke up; I dropped a stick at 2:56 and used my finger to hit the ride cymbal until I found another stick in the dark. Because of the angry eyes I was getting from the ex, I decided to keep that bit of info to myself until the album was way mastered. I did this once before, on a gospel song Raphael Saadiq and DAngelo were making for Voodoo. Somehow I can drum and snore at once!
Greatdayndamornin/Booty from Voodoo Asking me for my favorite moment of DAngelos Voodoo is the hardest task ever. I will say that the original music was light-years behind what you hear on the final album. (He changed everything but the drums.) The Booty portion (5:37) is my favorite part. We were just messing around, playing the Sesame Street theme. I came back a month later, and he kept the drums the same and made it into an interlude. I gotta say that this particular interlude is my rawest, stankest performance on wax. And the fact that our engineer showed me how he got that dirty sound made me explore all the sonic texture options shortly thereafter.
You Got Me from Things Fall Apart The song that I get the most compliments on is based on a song demonstrating a style that Im barely known for. Most people wonder why I did the drum n bass homage at the end. We moved to London in 1994, and drum n bass was all the rage then. D&B is pretty much the sound of Clyde Stubblefields drum solo on James Browns Soul Pride played back at a higher speed. The effect is hypnotic in a club, and back in 94 all the clubs in London were under the spell. We were friends with the proprietors of that particular movementU.K. production team 4heroand wanted to send em a lil shout-out. Little did we know this would win us a Grammy and that the future gods of arthritis would forever haunt me.
Pharrell & The Yessirs
How Does It Feel? from Out Of My Mind One day in September of 2006, at 4 a.m., the Neptunes Pharrell Williams asked James Poyser and me to remix his entire debut album, carte blanche. We more or less gave him a face-lift and tucked and lifted what was already there. This particular cut took its rhythm spirit from the Jimmy Castor Bunchs B-boy classic Its Just Begun and the last minute of the Afro breakdown on Michael Jacksons Dont Stop Til You Get Enough. Although the album isnt available for retail purchase, you can scour the Net and find copies. This is one of the rare times I play 16ths on the hi-hat with both hands.
Not About Love from Extraordinary Machine My biggest honor of 2005 was meeting one of my favorite artists: Fiona Apple. She was so shy about asking me to play on her album, but I couldnt have been happier. We spent the day at [bassist/producer] Mike Elizondos house and worked on a lot of songs. Then she played me a demo of Not About Love, and I was floored. I insisted on being a part of this song, only to be told it was already recorded. I still didnt care, and sure enough they let me have my way. The most shocking revelation is that the song was already recorded without a click track. And with all its skips and time signatures, I was in for a nightmare for sure. Swear to God, I nailed it on the first take!
Prince with Musiq
If You Want Me To Stay from One Night Alone Although nothing extraordinary, I can at least tell my kids there is proof of me, Larry Graham, and Prince jamming on Sly Stone in a New York club.
Get The Right Sound
Tuning is a very important part of drumming that a lot of players neglect. If drums are not properly tuned there can be all kinds of disgusting sounds. If drums are tuned unevenly they will buzz or rattle. If they are too loose they can sound dead, but too tight can sound really bad too!
You want to tune each drum to a nice natural tone for that particular drum. Tune the batter head up and down till you find it - each drum has its sweet spot where it sounds best.
Be sure the tension rods are all tightened the same. Test the tone by playing around the drum near each tension rod so it sounds the same. Now repeat this on the resonant head. You want top and bottom to sound the same.
Use The Right Gear
I really believe you can get great sound out of any type of drums. Some things I can suggest for metal in particular would be hard plastic kick drum beaters and Falam kick pads. I also use a Remo CS controlled sound batter head on the snare. I use a paper-thin hazy head on the bottom with wide snares. You also want to find a stick that's right for you. I recommend a 5B - it's a nice medium size and weight.
Set Up Your Gear Correctly
This is important. What I recommend is to start with the throne. Just sit at the throne. Adjust the height so your thighs are parallel to the ground and your back is straight. Then kick your feet as if you were playing the kick drums wherever your feet feel comfortable. Now look down at your feet. That is where you put your kick pedals. Now bring on the snare. The height of the snare is important. You want the snare high enough that when you play it your hands are not resting on your thighs. Continue to set up the whole kit, one piece at a time, making sure each piece is in a spot that is comfortable and fluid for you to play with no wasted motion. Avoid putting things at weird angles or too close or far away. You want to be able to sit comfortably and reach your whole kit easily.
When you're on tour you sit around all day so sometimes it's hard to get motivated. I'd say it's good to start warming up about a half hour before you play. It's good to get the blood flowing and warm before the show. It's a good idea to stretch your whole body, especially your fingers, hands, and arms. You can warm up many ways. Do some push ups, jumping jacks, whatever. You can take a practice pad and play rudiments. What I like to do is just play along to the songs on a practice pad.
Build Up Your Speed And Stamina
To build speed and stamina you've got to be willing to put in the work. I'd start with snare rudiments. Play these on the hands and on the feet. Also work on them leading with left and right. Get a metronome and start slow, when you get to a speed that challenges you work from there gradually trying it at faster speeds. You will see results from this but you've gotta work at it. You will also be a more confident player and you will surprise yourself when you start pulling off fills and beats you didn't know you had in you.
If you want to increase your star power, the new Rock Tour drum set from Yamaha might be just what you need.
Designed from the ground up to appeal to rock drummers looking for affordable, high-quality drums with an edgy look, the Rock Tour will do a fine job of upstaging those limelight-hogging guitar players.
Yamaha drums have always been known for quality craftsmanship and attention to detail, said Dave Jewell, marketing manager, Yamaha Drums. Though were maintaining these same standards, the new Rock Tour kits represent a hipper side of Yamaha and offer an aggressive sound that younger rock musicians are looking for.
Constructed with True Mahogany shells in sizes that are perfect for rockers, the Rock Tour kit offers pro features at a nice price. Yamahas staggered diagonal seam Air Seal System construction ensures that each shell is perfectly round and eliminates gaps in the bearing edges.
The textured Ash finishes, originally developed for Yamahas flagship acoustic PHX series acoustic drum sets, are combined with satin nickel hardware and look as good as the kits sound.
Our exclusive drum shell manufacturing process is the key to creating drums that will take the punishment that rock drummers dish out, said Jim Haler, product manager, Yamaha Drums. The shells have a tone that is microphone friendly, making it easier for drummers to get a good sound in the studio or on stage. They have a musical tone, without sacrificing the projection needed to cut through a wall of loud guitars. The new finishes are visually engaging, too, and offer an exciting dimension to any bands look.
As part of the roll-out for this product, Yamaha Drums will give kits to selected young, unsigned drummers who are actively performing. As part of the agreement for receiving a kit, they will regularly post online videos of the kit in action along with other content.
Rock Tour drum sets are available to buy now! Check here for prices.
SONOR is proud to announce its first own Company Festival the SONOR DAYS 2010 on May 29 and 30, 2010. The unique event takes place at SONORs headquarters in Bad Berleburg-Aue, Germany.
Without a doubt, this is probably Europes largest event of its kind incorporating Artist Workshops & Masterclasses, Concerts, Factory Tours, Family Fun.
And off course the chance for everybody to get their hand on SONORs drum, percussion, education and marching products including some very rare vintage products from the companys 135 year history!
Says Karl H. Menzel, Managing Director of SONOR: This year, SONOR celebrates its 135 year anniversary, making it the drum and percussion company with the longest heritage. To mark this event, SONOR is organizing SONOR DAYS on the 29th and 30th of May, 2010 featuring international musicians and teaching authorities in the fields of drums, percussion, education and marching. We are looking forward to welcoming all our friends, business partners and drum and percussion enthusiasts to the SONOR factory in Bad Berleburg, Germany.
The following artists are confirmed to perform at the international festival:
The festival homepage www.sonor.com/sonordays2010 is open now with detailed information and a Ticketshop.
A cracking little drum solo by Chris Fryar with some help from the band.
An interview with David Lauser drummer for Sammy Hagar.
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